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Mass arrests at Istanbul May Day rally
by Al Jazeera (reposted)
Tuesday May 1st, 2007 7:24 AM
Turkish police have used tear gas and water cannons to break up May Day demonstrations in Istanbul, arresting more than 100 people, including half a dozen union leaders.
Disk, the country's labour confederation, said at least one person was badly hurt in Tuesday's disturbances.

The march was called to commemorate the 30th anniversary of a deadly rally at the city's central Taksim Square, when unidentified armed men opened fire on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, sparking panic that left 34 dead.

Transport was paralysed as the authorities blocked roads.

Ferries were cancelled and metro stations closed to cope with two crowds on either side of the Bosphorus.

Anniversary rally

Muammer Guler, Istanbul's governor, put the number of arrests at "more than 100" as participants in one of the rallies, organised by Disk and several other unions, tried to march on the square in defiance of a ban.

Union leaders later managed to strike a deal with police, allowing a limited group of demonstrators access to the square.

Suleyman Celebi, Disk's president, said: "We will only be a few thousand marching up to Taksim Square, but we are millions in our hearts."

The organisation said in a statement that six union leaders, including Musa Cam, its secretary-general, were among scores arrested earlier near the Inonu Stadium, just down the hill from Taksim Square.

Presidential tensions

The arrests came against a backdrop of tensions between the army and government over the country's disputed presidential election, on which Turkey's highest court was expected to deliver a ruling later on Tuesday.

Several hundred people gathered chanting "Long Live May Day," "We will not bow to pressure," and "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism" before being dispersed by police, who moved in on any group attempting to march to the square.

Dogan Halis, a health workers' union leader, said in a brief speech that ended when officers bundled him into a police vehicle: "We do not deserve this, Turkey does not deserve this. You are giving a shameful image of Turkey, that of the military coups of 1971 and 1980."

Guler had rejected several earlier Disk demands to officially hold their rally on Taksim Square, citing "intelligence that many illegal organisations are planning to go there... [to] take on the police".

In another area near the square, the Okmeydani district, about 1,000 demonstrators armed with sticks and stones faced off against a police barricade.

Outside support

Buses full of of demonstrators coming from Ankara who were prevented from crossing the Bosphorus bridge to join the rally on the European side, gathered in an area know as the Mustafa Kemal neighbourhood in Umraniye.

Other buses were stopped at toll booths at the Istanbul end of the motorway from Ankara, and Disk said police were forcing many of them back to the capital.

Disk accused police of throwing tear gas canisters inside some of the buses and said one woman was hospitalised with a broken arm and cranial trauma.

Another May Day rally in Istanbul, held in Kadikoy Square on the Asian side of the city and organised by the Turk-Is labour confederation, was said to have gone ahead without incident.

by BBC (reposted)
Tuesday May 1st, 2007 7:25 AM
Nearly 600 people have been arrested in Istanbul as police launched a dramatic clampdown on left-wing demonstrators trying to hold a May Day rally.

Officers fired tear gas and used batons to stop the crowd marching to Taksim Square, where they were due to mark the 30th anniversary of "Bloody May Day".

Thirty-four people died in 1977 after a gunman fired, triggering a stampede.

This year's rally is taking place in a country already tense over a disputed presidential election.

The constitutional court is currently examining an opposition call to cancel the election of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as president. The first round of parliamentary voting ended in disarray on Friday.

Transport paralysed

After some violent clashes in one area of the city, a handful of trade union leaders were allowed into the square to lay red carnations in memory of those who died in 1977.

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